Man suing province for millions seeks to have P.E.I. deputy minister named in contempt action

The man seeking a contempt ruling against the P.E.I. government over access to documents is now seeking a specific ruling of contempt naming the province’s deputy minister of economic growth, Erin McGrath-Gaudet.

Proceedings delayed in e-gaming case revolving around 1,300+ pages of documents

Businessman Paul Maines wants P.E.I. Deputy Minister of Economic Growth Erin McGrath-Gaudet, shown in a file photo, found in contempt of court personally over her actions involving documents he wanted released. (Brain Higgins/CBC News)

The man seeking a contempt of court ruling against the P.E.I. government over access to documents is now seeking a specific ruling of contempt naming the province's deputy minister of economic growth, Erin McGrath-Gaudet.

Paul Maines is the president of Capital Markets Technologies (CMT), a company that remains embroiled in a $150-million lawsuit against the P.E.I. government stemming from the province's e-gaming affair — a failed attempt by the P.E.I. government to become a regulator for online gambling.

In a separate court proceeding, Maines is seeking a ruling of contempt against the government and McGrath-Gaudet, after the province failed to meet deadlines to provide documents laid out in court orders signed by McGrath-Gaudet and the province's former privacy commissioner, Karen Rose.

After a brief court hearing Tuesday, the case was adjourned at the government's request, after Maines' lawyer John Phillips clarified his client wants McGrath-Gaudet found personally in contempt of court, something that wasn't articulated in Maines' initial filings in January.

Government lawyer Mitchell O'Shea told the court that the government has provided Maines with 1,316 pages of documents, with only 27 pages that require federal approval before being disclosed left outstanding.

Paul Maines, shown arriving at court Tuesday, is suing the Prince Edward Island government and seeking to have a deputy minister named in a contempt of court action. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Those documents came in response to freedom of information requests Maines filed in May 2019. He has said he is pursuing an order of contempt against the province because it missed deadlines to disclose those documents and he feels there should be consequences for that.

In a brief court appearance in February, O'Shea said the province cannot be found in contempt because "there was no ill intent" on its part in missing the deadline to provide the documents, attributing the delays to "unexpected absences and staffing issues."

Missing emails

In a ruling issued in June, former commissioner Rose said the province "deliberately withheld" information about missing emails in response to freedom-of-information requests from Maines and another applicant, Kevin Arsenault.

In failing to disclose that some of the records Maines and Arsenault were seeking were missing from government archives, Rose said the Department of Economic Growth had failed in its duty to assist applicants and was thus in violation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

She also said the province's Archives and Records Act was violated when a swath of emails disappeared from the account of a senior bureaucrat with Innovation PEI.

No date was set Tuesday for proceedings to gather evidence and hear arguments regarding the motion of contempt.

Appeal court ruling pending

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. Court of Appeal heard arguments in May regarding CMT's appeal seeking to have its lawsuit reinstated in P.E.I. Supreme Court. A written decision is still pending.

CMT alleges the provincial government was in breach of contract with regards to a plan to set up a financial service centre to process online transactions.

The allegations stemmed from a memorandum of understanding signed between the government and a subsidiary of CMT in July of 2012. Efforts to set up a financial services centre in the province came in the wake of a failed attempt by the province and the Mi'kmaq Confederacy to establish P.E.I. as a regulator for online gambling.

In dismissing that suit for the second time in September 2019, Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell wrote in his decision that the "allegations were without any factual basis."

More from CBC P.E.I.